RTM Engineering Consultants LLC: JCFS Abe and Ida Cooper Center

Electrical, power; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; energy, sustainability; plumbing, piping.

By RTM Engineering Consultants LLC August 11, 2016

Engineering firm: RTM Engineering Consultants LLC

2016 MEP Giants rank: 94

Project: JCFS Abe and Ida Cooper Center

Location: Chicago

Building type: Educational facility

Project type: New construction

Engineering services: Electrical, power; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; energy, sustainability; plumbing, piping

Project timeline: October 2015 to May 2016

MEP/FP budget: $39,000


RTM Engineering Consultants partnered with OKW Architects in the design for the Abe and Ida Cooper Center located in Chicago. RTM provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection (MEP/FP) design for the 18,500-sq-ft family services facility that features an indoor play area for children, offices for therapists and other qualified personnel, classrooms, and additional staff and support spaces, such as pantries, lounge areas, and storage areas. To streamline the construction process and provide in-depth coordination of all of the ductwork, pipework, and equipment, RTM used Revit to create 3-D models of the MEP/FP systems for the building.

As a nonprofit and potential LEED Gold project, the Abe and Ida Cooper Center is eligible for funding from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation, which offers several grant opportunities for designs that achieve a significant increase in energy efficiency when compared with a baseline system, use renewable sources as a means of building energy supply, and are built in a sustainable manner.

In addition to the complexities of designing to LEED Gold standards, RTM faced several challenges in terms of designing the MEP systems to the outlined criteria while staying within the client’s budget. Such challenges included minimizing the amount of ductwork while maintaining the acoustical isolation of the office spaces.


RTM worked carefully with the client to provide inventive solutions so the project meets the needs of the facility, stays within budget, and is on track to achieve LEED Gold status. As a nonprofit and potential LEED Gold project, RTM’s MEP design addressed the following grants:

  • Innovative HVAC: By implementing an innovative HVAC system, the project is eligible to achieve one-third of the cost difference between the innovative system and the standard Illinois code-minimum system for this type of application. RTM’s design involved a variable-flow refrigerant (VRF) system, which meets the foundation’s requirements for an innovative system. To help obtain the funding, the team produced an energy model showing that the new VRF system is 20% more efficient than the baseline system defined by the current energy code.
  • Design and commissioning: To achieve the $75,000 funding under this grant as a LEED Gold project, the design must meet minimum energy-performance requirements per the U.S Green Building Council and exceed the Illinois Energy Code requirements. A commissioning plan also must be provided. RTM worked with a commissioning consultant to create and implement this plan.
  • Renewable energy: If this project uses renewable energy to provide a minimum of 9% of the total building energy usage, then funding under this grant can be obtained. RTM’s design included the use of PV panels as a renewable energy source to provide electricity for the building.

RTM implemented several design measures in conjunction with the aforementioned renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements. These measures included:

  • A significant reduction in the building’s water usage
  • Providing lighting controls to maximize daylight in the building
  • Providing temperature controls in each zone so as to maximize individual heating and cooling control
  • Providing systems and equipment that will track the building’s energy use so that any building inefficiencies can be identified and corrected.